Chocolate Almond Butter

DIY Nutella - Chocolate Almond Butter

Chocolate Almond Butter
makes almost 2 cups

Nutella is a pretty solid mood booster, except if you accidentally look at the ingredient list.  Expecting to find cocoa and hazelnuts listed first, you'll be kind of bummed out to see Sugar and Palm Oil instead.  The good news is that nut butters--even the chocolately kind--are incredibly easy to make at home!  You'll know you'll have something fresh with top-notch ingredients and you can customize it to your preferences (for example, I prefer almonds to hazelnuts and dark chocolate to milk).  Almonds are a great source of Monounsaturated Fatty Acids, which can lower your "bad" cholesterol and help regulate your blood sugar.  This blend was made up of what I had on hand so I actually subbed in about 1/2 cup of walnuts for some of the almonds.  Still delish.

2 cups of almonds
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

1. In a food processor, pulse and puree the almonds until you have almond butter.  This will take 5-7 minutes.  Stop every minute or two to scrape down the sides.  The almonds will get gravel-y, then almost dough-like as they form a ball, then finally will turn into a creamy--and warm--nut butter.  Let it go longer than you think you need to.

2. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave.  Once almonds are creamy, add melted chocolate to the food processor, along with vanilla and sea salt and puree until smooth.  Transfer to a mason jar and leave at room temperature for 1-2 weeks.  

Chocolate Hemp Protein Shake

chocolate hemp protein shake

Chocolate Hemp Protein Shake
makes 1 shake

Gritty protein powders gross out my tongue and I only recommend them to clients that have very specific dietary or protein needs.  Most people do not need processed powders in their diets!  However, if you eat mostly plant-based foods and have the need for an on-the-go beverage rich in protein and other nutrients, I think you'll love this whole foods-based protein shake.  I combine a full serving of hemps seeds with almond butter to get a shake with 18 grams of protein.  The hemp and almond butter also provide good fats in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids and Omega 3s.  The fats and fiber from the dates and banana will help keep you fuller longer and help keep your blood sugar from spiking.

1 banana
2 medjool dates, pitted
3 tablespoons of hemp seeds
2 tablespoons of natural almond butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup ice
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1. In a high-powered blender, combine all ingredients and blend until very smooth (It may take a few minutes for the hemp seeds and dates to get totally smooth, but they will.)  Serve immediately or store in a jar with a lid in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Butternut Apple Soup

Butternut Apple Soup with White Beans and Garam Masala

Butternut-Apple Soup
serves 2-3

I love the simplicity of a simple pureed soup for dinner.  My go-to way to make a meal out of it is to blend white beans and/or coconut milk with the vegetables to add protein and fat.  This recipe doesn’t use the entire cans of beans and coconut milk (sorry, but trust me on this) so feel free to freeze the remainder to use another day.  Coconut milk freezes well in ice cube trays so you can pop a frozen cube into a soup any time.  Serve plain or garnish with chives, yogurt, or chopped nuts.

drizzle of olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red-green apple (like a gala), cored and sliced
1 teaspoon garam masala (or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 can of white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup canned coconut milk (optional)
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt to taste

1. In a large pot, heat drizzle of oil and sauté onion and apple until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Don’t cheat this step—this is where all the flavor comes from.  Stir in garam masala and let cook for 30 seconds.  Add squash, white beans and coconut milk and cover with just enough vegetable stock or water.  Let simmer until squash is totally cooked, about 20 minutes.

2.  Puree soup in a blender with lemon juice and salt until smooth.  You want the consistency to be just thinner than baby food.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve plain or garnished with herbs or yogurt.

Black Bean Brownies

black bean brownies

Black Bean Brownies (vegan and gluten-free)
makes 9

Black beans might seem an unexpected ingredient in brownies, but their soft texture is actually the perfect vehicle for chocolatey fudginess.  Be careful not to overcook these—they will get kind of rubbery.  My advice if you are sharing these with friends: tell them there is a secret ingredient and make them guess, revealing your secret only after they’ve fallen in love with these healthy treats.  

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate chips
pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Buzz up rolled oats in the food processor until they form a rough flour. Then add the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate chips to the food processor and blend for a couple minutes until very smooth.

2. Add most of the chocolate chips and pour into an oiled 8x8 baking pan.  Top with extra chocolate chips and flakes of sea salt (optional) and bake for 15-17 minutes. You want the center to still be soft—it’ll firm up as it cools.  Cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

Warm Couscous and Brussels Sprout Salad

warm couscous and brussels sprout salad

Warm Couscous and Brussels Sprout Salad
serves 3-4

Cooking up a quick pot of chewy, Israeli couscous is a great way to use up odds and ends from your fridge.  It takes about 15 minutes and has a nice neutral taste that can pair with just about anything.  I use a little sheep's feta in this recipe, but you can feel free to omit and substitute kalamata olives for that same salty and briney bite.  Similarly, if you are gluten-free go with a grain like millet or quinoa.

1 lb brussels sprouts, cut in half vertically
drizzle of avocado oil (or other high heat oil)
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 garlic clove, minced
couple handfuls of baby kale or spinach
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sheep's feta, crumbled

1. Drizzle brussels sprouts with grapeseed oil and sprinkle with salt.  Lay on a parchment-lined sheet tray and roast at 450 for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil and toast dry couscous until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.  Then add 1 1/4 cups of water.  Bring to a simmer and cover and cook until water is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes.

3. Take a skillet and heat another drizzle of olive oil.  Add minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Add and stir greens until just wilted, about 2 minutes.  

4. In a serving bowl, combine couscous, brussels sprouts, and wilted greens.  Season with the red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and plenty of black pepper.  Top with crumbled sheep's feta.

Ayurvedic Chai

Ayurvedic Chai
makes 1 cup

This tea uses warming Ayurvedic spices to help you feel warm and nurtured during the cold, dry part of winter.  If you know your dosha, you can customize your tea to better suit your body type.  Take a dosha quiz here.  Since this tea is intended for Fall and Early Winter, it is perfect as-is for Vatas, since those are the Vata seasons.  Kaphas should use less/no sweetener and can add extra ginger and turmeric for pungency and bitterness.  Pittas can go easy on the warming spices but can enjoy this on a cold winter day.  Kaphas can add black tea to this, although Vatas are better off using Rooibos which is less drying and Pittas should be cautious to not go overboard on caffeine.

1.5 cups of almond milk
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
4 cloves
2 black peppercorns
3 slices of fresh ginger
1 rooibos tea bag or 2 teaspoons loose rooibos tea
1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional)
Honey or coconut sugar to sweeten

1. In a small pot, heat almond milk with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, ginger, and rooibos for 10-15 minutes.  Simmer longer if you like more spice.

2. Strain spices and whisk in coconut oil.  Use an immersion blender to emulsify if you find that whisking doesn't totally incorporate the oil.  This will make it frothy like a latte.  Sweeten to taste and serve immediately.  

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie
makes 1 smoothie

I almost always go green when I make smoothies, but this fall my kitchen has been overloaded with winter squash and sweet potatoes from my CSA.  Combining these leftover roasted veggies with cold pressed, unpasteurized apple cider (another CSA item), I make a smoothie that's unusually sweet for me, but tempered by the addition of turmeric, ginger and cinnamon.  Squash and sweet potatoes are good sources of beta carotene and fiber and are easily interchangeable in a recipe like this.  Don't worry about replicating mine exactly; just use what you have on hand.

1 banana
1 cup roasted sweet potato
1 cup roasted winter squash (I had buttercup and delicata)
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1/2 inch piece of fresh turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup apple cider

1. In a high powered blender, blend all ingredients until very smooth, adding more cider or water if necessary.  Garnish with extra hemp seeds and a pinch of cinnamon.  

DIY Vanilla Extract

DIY Vanilla Extract
makes 8 ounces

Any baker worth her bundt pan knows that high quality vanilla extract is the key to robust flavorful desserts, particularly chocolate ones.  I created this batch of vanilla extract with vanilla beans that I bought in India and then promptly forgot about and leftover local vodka that was just hanging out in my liquor cabinet.  You can use any high proof alcohol to create vanilla extract--including rum, bourbon or even brandy--but I prefer the vodka, possibly because it's just what I'm used to.  If you are making these as holiday gifts, let your giftees know they take 6-8 weeks to mature.

2-3 whole vanilla beans
8 ounces of vodka

1. Slice beans vertically to expose the inner seeds.

2. Place vanilla beans in an an 8-ounce mason jar and cover to the top with vodka.  Seal tightly.  Keep in a dark, cool place and shake the jar every couple of days.  The extract will slowly darken and flavor will develop, about 6-8 weeks and a minimum of 4.  You can use the extract straight out of the container or strain into smaller bottles.  

Homemade Mounds Bars

Homemade Mounds Bars
makes 10 fun-size candy bars

In celebration of Halloween, I'm posting a candy bar makeover for one of my childhood faves: Mounds bars!  A combination of coconut and dark chocolate, these mini candy bars are a little more grown up than the store-bought ones.  Since these are wholes foods-based, they need to be stored in the fridge, but are delicious served cold.

2 cups unsweetened, desiccated coconut
1/4 cup coconut butter, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
2 3.5 ounce dark chocolate bars (at least 70% cocoa)

1. Mix coconut, melted coconut butter, maple syrup, sea salt, vanilla extract and melted coconut oil together in a bowl.  Using your hands, form 10 mini bars.  Lay evenly on a wax paper-lined plate and chill in the freezer until firmed up, about 15-30 minutes.

2. In a double boiler (or microwave) melt chocolate bars.  Dip coconut bars in chocolate and remove to another wax paper-lined plate.  Chill in freezer until solidified, 5 minutes.

3. If you have a little leftover chocolate, drizzle a zig-zag pattern on top of the chocolate bars and top with a little flaky sea salt.  Store in the fridge and serve cold.

Asian Snack Mix

Asian Snack Mix
makes about 6 cups

Homemade Chex Mix is a holiday tradition from when I was a kid.  Every year my mom still makes a big batch, and we all go a little too crazy for it.  Here is my slightly "cleaned" up version of the traditional that relies on Asian flavors like tamari and wasabi to give it interest.  I used ghee (Indian clarified butter) for my version, but you could certainly use regular, high-quality butter or substitute coconut oil (I'd go with refined here as not to give the mix a super coconut-y taste).  Feel free to play around with what's in your mix (use more sprouted nuts and seeds, skip the cereal, etc), as long as you keep the ratio of dry ingredients to wet the same.

1 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup wasabi peas
2 cups whole grain or rice cereal
1 cup sprouted pepitas
4 tablespoons ghee or refined coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce (like Amy's)
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
pinch of red chile flake
sea salt to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine peanuts, cashews, wasabi peas, cereal and pepitas.

2. In a small pot, heat ghee or coconut oil and stir in maple syrup, tamari, worcestershire sauce, granulated garlic and red chile flake.  Add to the bowl and stir to combine evenly.

3. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, bake at 250 for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove and let cool.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Apple Honey

Apple Honey
makes about 1/2 cup

A few weeks ago, my CSA box included a half-gallon of locally made apple cider.  Not typically a big juice gal, I didn't drink most of it right away.  Seeing that the cider was nearing its expiration date, I couldn't bring myself to dump out the whole thing, so I put the remaining 5 cups in a pot and simmered it until it reduced to a syrupy consistency.  You could really use this reduction method to squeeze more life out of any juice or even mulled cider.  The apple honey is pretty neutral tasting although it's a touchy caramel-y and a little tarter than regular honey.  Try it on toast, in smoothies, on oatmeal or in nut and fruit energy bites.

4-5 cups of apple cider

1. In a medium pot, boil apple cider until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 1 hour.  Remember it will thicken much more as it cools.  Cool and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Note: You can do this with any amount of cider, but use at least 4 cups or else you won't have much honey at the end.  The reduction goes very slow until the end, where it reduces quite rapidly so keep you eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn.  

Salted Caramel Apple Dip

Salted Caramel Apple Dip
makes 1 cup dip

So this isn't "real" caramel because there is no sugar or butter, but the combination of robust, smoky dates with a touch of nut butter makes this creamy dip worthy of all your fall apples.  Dates are rich in fiber and also contain magnesium, a nutrient essential for absorbing calcium, and also crucial to help with muscle cramping.  Lemon juice and sea salt make this dip mature and balanced.

1 cup Medjool dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond or sunflower butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
generous pinch of salt + flaked sea salt to garnish

1. In a small bowl, cover dates with hot water and let soak for 5 minutes.  Strain.

2. Combine dates, vanilla, almond/sunflower butter, lemon juice and sea salt in a food processor and blend until smooth.  You made need to add a teaspoon or two of water depending on your food processor.  

3. Garnish with flaked sea salt and serve with apple slices.

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries
makes 2 cups

Roasting strawberries until they are soft, thick and syrupy is one of my favorite ways to eat this summer treat.  I add a splash of sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar here to add some acidity to the fruit, alongside maple and vanilla to give it some earthy, caramelized sweetness.  You can leave the berries and their juices alone or thicken up with kuzu or arrowroot powder (or even chia seeds) to make more a pie-filling like consistency.  Top oatmeal, yogurt or ice cream with this mix.

2 pints strawberries
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon kuzu or arrowroot

1. Preheat oven to 400.  Hull strawberries and cut in 1/2 or in 1/4s if large.  In a small baking dish, toss strawberries, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and vanilla.  Roast in oven until broken down and bubbling, about 20 minutes.

2. If desired, make a slurry of 1 teaspoon kuzu dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water.  When strawberries are bubbling, stir in kuzu slurry until it dissolves and thickens the mixture.

Crispy Chickpeas

Crispy Chickpeas
makes 3 cups

These oven roasted chickpeas are my go-to high protein crunchy snack and salad topper.  They are ridiculously easy to make, but do take at least 45 minutes in the oven, so plan ahead.  They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature to stay fresh.  Try them on my Kale Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes or add them to my Spinach Walnut Pasta Salad.

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
pinch of red chile flake
generous sprinkle of salt

1. Preheat oven to 400.  On a parchment-lined sheet tray, toss chickpeas with grapeseed oil, granulated garlic, red chile flake and salt.  Roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes, tossing once or twice, until chickpeas shrink and are crunchy and crispy (but not burned).

Afternoon Sunshine Turmeric Smoothie

turmeric smoothie

This superfood turmeric smoothie comes from my friend and paleo blogger Stacey Hutson.  My work day tends to be long, and I often don't get the opportunity to eat lunch until 2-3pm, making me not only a little hangry, but also feeling a little weak, tired and de-energized.  Stacey made me this energizing (but caffeine-free) smoothie to help me make it to lunch and I've become obsessed!  Ginger and turmeric are bursting with anti-inflammatory properties and the touch of black pepper helps your body make better use of the curcumin in turmeric.  Although not proven, many people think bee pollen is energizing, although it should obviously be avoided by anyone with pollen allergies.  Stacey recommends using carrot juice (straining and throwing out the pulp after blending the carrot) for a better texture. 

  • 1/2 cup carrot juice (blend 1 carrot with 1/2 cup filtered water and strain out pulp)
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 inch turmeric root, peeled (you can sub 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric)
  • sprinkle black pepper
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 teaspoon bee pollen
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1. In a blender combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.  Garnish with seeds, more bee pollen or goji berries if desired.  

Basic Beginner Green Juice

Basic Beginner Green Juice
makes 14 ounces

Here's a basic green juice recipe to get you started with summer juicing.  Green apples provide a good balance of sweetness and tartness to help balance the earthy taste of the vegetables.  Leafy greens don't generate too much juice, so cucumber and celery help provide more green goodness.  Makes one big serving or two small glasses.

2 granny smith apples, cored
4 celery stalks
1/2 English cucumber
2-3 cups spinach
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Put apples, celery, cucumber and spinach in the juicer.  Add lemon juice after and serve immediately.

Banana Nice Cream with Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Banana Nice Cream with Peanut Butter and Chocolate
makes 1 pint

This is my take on the "nice cream" trend that uses frozen bananas to make an ice cream-like treat.  I added peanut butter and melted dark chocolate to make it decadent and play off of the banana flavor.  You can serve it immediately like soft serve, or let it harden in the freezer and scoop it out later.  You'll want to take it out 5 minutes before serving to let it soften enough to scoop.  

2 bananas, peeled, sliced thinly and frozen
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
2 ounces dark chocolate melted

1. In a food processor, pulse frozen bananas until they start to break up.  Then run the food processor continuously until you get a smooth, even mixture the texture of soft serve.  Add peanut butter and blend completely.

2.  Using a spatula, add a heaping scoop of the nice cream to an empty deli pint container.  Drizzle in a little of the chocolate with a spoon.  Add more nice cream, etc, continuing to layer until the pint is full.  Let solidify in the freezer for 2 hours and serve.

Cold Brew Hibiscus Iced Tea

Cold Brewed Hibiscus Iced Tea
Makes 4 cups

Hibiscus flowers can be used to make a tart, floral almost cranberry-like infusion called Jamaica or Agua de Jamaica. High in iron and Vitamin C, you can often find this beverage at your local taqueria. It is also used medicinally in the Middle East and South and Central America and the Caribbean--as with any herbal tea, pregnant women or anyone with allergies or illnesses should consult their doctor before consuming.

1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers
4 cups filtered water
1 cinnamon stick
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
To serve: orange slices and ice

1. In a quart-size mason jar, add all ingredients and fill to the brim. Put on the lid and shake. Store in the fridge for 4-24 hours. Strain and serve unsweetened with orange slices and ice in a tall glass.

*Note: You can add a little simple syrup or honey if you like it sweet. Can also combined with lemonade, iced tea, club soda or cocktail ingredients.  Have fun!


Cinnamon Spice Kettle Corn

Cinnamon Kettle Corn

Cinnamon Spice Kettle Corn
Makes 10 cups

Upgrade your movie night by making homemade kettle corn.  No special equipment required!  I like the blend of spicy, sweet and salty so I flavor mine with a mix of maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt.

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons maple syrup
generous sprinkle of salt
2 teaspoons good quality cinnamon (I like Vietnamese)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1. In a large, thick pot, heat oil until it shimmers.  Add 3 kernels of popcorn to test oil.  When they start to pop, add the rest of kernels and drizzle in maple syrup.  Stir and quickly put the lid on the pot and let kernels start to pop.  Shake the pot back and forth on the stovetop to make sure the kernels don't burn.  

2.  When the popping starts to slow (2-3 seconds between each pop), dump out popcorn quickly onto a sheet tray and spread out with a spoon.  (It's super hot, don't touch!).  Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon and cayenne and toss together with a spoon.  Serve immediately or let cool and package into an airtight container and store at room temperature.

Chickpeas in Romesco Sauce

Chickpeas in Romesco Sauce
serves 4

Bright tomato-y Romesco sauce is a great accompaniment to chickpeas and zucchini, taking these pretty bland foods and holding them together in a richly textured sauce.  While you can definitely use canned chickpeas for this recipe, I actually prefer to cook them from scratch to get a softer, creamier texture that absorbs the flavor of the sauce better.  I soak 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas overnight and then cook covered in fresh water and nothing else for 2 hours or until soft.  This recipe freezes well too.  

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 28-ounce can tomatoes
2 roasted red peppers
drizzle of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red chile flake
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (sub red wine or white wine vinegar)
2 zucchini, chopped
4 cups of cooked chickpeas (or 2 15-ounce cans)
salt to taste
parsley or chives to garnish

1. Grind almonds in the food processor until you get a fine meal.  Remove to a bowl.  Next puree tomatoes and roasted red peppers in the food processor until smooth.  

2. In a large pot, saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and red chile flake and stir.  Add vinegar and stir.  Add zucchini and salt and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add chickpeas, tomato-pepper puree, ground almonds and let come up to a simmer.  Season with salt and garnish with chives or parsley,